Consultant buys Ericsson’s MWC floorspace to host ‘cloud city’

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Royston's vision for the MWC space is to create a “cloud city.” (Getty Images)

Some people have grand ideas, and apparently consultant Danielle Royston is one of them. When she heard that Ericsson had pulled out of Mobile World Congress 2021, she thought that it’s a shame to leave such a nice venue empty, and wouldn’t it be great if it were filled with cloud vendors such as AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. And so, she’s set the wheels in motion to do exactly that.

Royston has purchased the entire 65,000 square feet of floorspace at Mobile World Congress that Ericsson has vacated in Hall 2. She says that’s about one and a half American football fields.

Although Royston isn’t disclosing how much she paid for the space, she indicated that “there’s a deal to be had there,” but that it would cost “millions of dollars.”

Royston is a public-cloud evangelist who runs her own company TelcoDR. She calls herself a “turn-around CEO” who has worked for companies that are in distress to get them back on their feet. She’s been a turn-around CEO for 16 software companies, many of them on the West Coast, where she’s developed relationships at the big cloud companies. 

Danielle Royston
Danielle Royston

Her last CEO gig was with a Canadian company called Optiva, which does BSS charging. “The insight that I had being an outsider was that no one in telco talked about the use of the public cloud, whereas it’s a big thing in every other industry,” she said. “The way things are deployed in telco, it’s like the late 90s.”

In mid-2020 Royston left Optiva, but she decided her next mission was to “beat the drum” about public cloud to the telecom industry.

And along came a big empty space at MWC and the opportunity to get some name recognition.

Her vision for the MWC space is to invite all the big public cloud providers and also smaller cloud vendors and create a “cloud city.” She doesn’t plan to charge these vendors for the space, although they will have to outfit and staff their own booths.

“I see with the opportunity of Ericsson pulling out to pivot the conversation to something more modern, relevant and future-forward to step into the largest booth at MWC and elevate the conversation,” she said.

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In terms of paying for it, Royston said, “I am super well-funded. Taking on the Ericsson opportunity is not something we are worried about at all. I’m going to pay for it.”

Asked about the huge risk of doing all this with the uncertainty of Covid, she said the Spanish government is incentivized to do everything it can to help MWC happen. It’s a big factor in the economy of Barcelona. She acknowledged that her bold move is not completely risk free, but she’s counting on vaccinations and testing protocols to allow the show to proceed.

She scoffed at Ericsson and Nokia - which also recently bailed on MWC 2021 - calling them “the old guard” that would just continue their ongoing conversations about 5G and not offer anything new, anyway.